What We’ve Learned From the USMNT European Adventure

us training in a line

The United States played two tough European opponents and were defeated in both matches. But we certainly learned something from both games, and thus this European Adventure has been useful for Bob Bradley.

  • The US has its style: tactically Bob Bradley is modeling his team after what Carlo Ancelotti did at AC Milan. Two deep holding midfielders who go box to box, wingers who push inside and can hold the ball, and two strikers, one a target player and the other a workabee. Michael Bradley grew up a Milan supporter, so this setup will be comfortable for both father and son.
  • The US has difficulty defending teams with a distinct attacking style. Slovakia under Vladimir Weiss counter attacks and doesn’t sustain a high defensive line. This allowed the US to control the midfield and the flow of the game. Slovakia was still dangerous on the counter but the game was very even. Denmark, however has had a distinct style of football with attacking flair for years. Even without most of its regulars, The Danes exploited the US’ tendency to man mark and to chase the ball, creating space and sustaining positive possession. This was even more disappointing because the Danes were without most of the nation’s top attacking threats.
  • Jeff Cunningham’s work off the ball is needed with the lazy, unfit Jozy Altidore on the pitch. Cunningham has had the reputation of a goal poacher who cannot do anything without his pace. But in a cameo Saturday and on Wednesday he showed that he works hard off the ball and does the work Altidore either cannot or is simply unwilling to do.
  • Frankie Hejduk’s age is becoming a factor.
  • Jonathan Bornstein is rough around the edges but makes the right runs forward at the right times.
  • Benny Feilhaber can hold the ball, but he’s more effective playing deep sending long balls forward. His crossing still needs work.
  • Ricardo Clark is hit or miss.
  • Stuart Holden is a keeper and needs to play in Europe.
  • Losing to Slovakia may worry people, but the performance was decent. Losing to Denmark, even with a Danish “B” side has to be expected in Aarhus. Denmark as I have written before will be very strong next summer. Losing to them is shameful only to those who don’t know anything about their program. The Danish side right now is much stronger than the US, and much deeper as well. A US victory would have been a notable upset.

28 thoughts on “What We’ve Learned From the USMNT European Adventure”

  1. WIthout serious improvement, we are looking at losing all our matches and taking a long flight home. These two friendlies were pathetic.

      1. I am pretty sure this is sarcastic, but if we can’t score goals we aren’t going to get very far. Altidore looks like England has made him worse, Davies won’t be ready, Cunningham has the finishing touch but has lost his pace due to aging, Johnson isn’t getting minutes and looks terrible, etc. It is a long ways away, but these teams were half strength (and admittedly so were ours) and we failed to do anything at all. I don’t think I’m being overly pessimistic. We won the hex, but we didn’t really dominate. Clearly we have a ways to go, and I’m not exactly a believer in Bob Bradley.

  2. Feilhaber’s promised attributes remain mere promise.

    Holden merely needs to play. Where he plays between now and next summer matters very little. The contract timing is right for him to go abroad, but from the stand point of preparation, it’s as likely to hurt as to help.

  3. kartik is so full of it

    i had never heard of slovakia or slovenia till a few weeks ago. those countries are smaller than delaware. denmark is a joke also. a tiny country where skiing and boating is the only thing to do.

    kartik wants us to believe all these eurotrash nations are strong to soothe his ego and convince us we are bad. if we had donovan, howard and gooch we would have beaten slovakia by a bunch and denmark something like 2-0 or 3-1. i have never heard of a single player on either team except skertel from liverpool (he sux btw) on slovakia and sorenson on denmark from aston villa.

    if jozy had donovan to play with in these two games he would have looked good against teams that i pray we see again in the world cup when we are healthy with a full squad. we beat spain, the eurtrash champs with a full squad and can beat anyone when healthy.

  4. The above poster is a muppet.

    Even though I think I am higher on the USMNT squad than Kartik is and a little lower on Bob Bradley than he is, I can’t say I disagree with a single thing in this post, other than the fact that I’d be more harsh on Bornstein, who I think is a shambolic defender, despite his good runs forward on occasion.

  5. Maybe Stuart Holden is a keeper because he has not gone to Europe.

    I am sure the Euro lovers will jump on this, but he is playing full time versus sitting on some European team’s bench.
    Maybe perhaps Kinnear is great coach, I can’t say it, can’t say it, don’t say it…..
    As good as some of the Euro coaches…..oh no I said it.

  6. Kartik is admittedly a bit biased regarding the level of Euro play. He needs to step back and take a look at the best teams and best players — sorry Kartik but they aren’t Euro. They’re Latin and African.

    Despite this blind spot I have only a few disagreements which center on Feilhaber and the midfield in general. A coaching basic — you work with what you’ve got! AC Milan can buy the players to fit the slots but Bradley needs to build his strategy around what he’s got and it doesn’t include Gattuso, Ambrosini, or Seedorf. However he does have Feilhaber who currently plays center mid for aarhaus. Feihaber is a great passer and more importantly is very creative. Unfortunately when the people around him can’t pass or trap, he looks bad. In the Denmark game he delivered a picture perfect pass to Johnson, who totally missed it; Donovan would have been on his way to goal.

  7. All these people who trash europe, do you watch much football at all, I am a fierce USMNT supporter/MLS and im not blind like you guys are slovenia arent bad, and we werent 100% makeshift D and what not, and denmark are a class team, players like bendnter who was hurt, romedahl, poulsen, jorgenson, and sorenson playes for stoke you dumbasses, you know who plays goal for villa, 1st and 2nd string are american!!!!!
    and any reasonable person knew we wouldnt win with a half ass squad and dumbass coach(hiddink is now available, trappotini may be as well)
    any ant one who watched us play spain know we were luck to win they dominated us you idiots DOMINATWED US in every category, our goalie just played on his head

  8. Bob Bradley needs to get canned! His team has no style, and no useful tactics or strategy. His son, Michael, needs to earn his PT, not be handed it by his Daddy. Jermain Jones and Jose Torres need to be given legitimate shots at playing central midfield.
    Michael stunk it up against Denmak; lousy distribution and weak passes. Feilhaber and Cunningham were the only ones who had good games. Altidore is looking a lot like DeMarcus Beasely; a once promising player who is now lazy, slow to make decisions, and no first touch. Bornstein will get killed at WC2010 — he pushes up well but gets burned on defense. With Charlie Davies gone, I think we need the speed of Robbie Rogers (even though I’m not a big fan of his).
    Bottom line: Bob Bradely should be fired, Altidore should be benched, and give Torres the chance to start. Jermain Jones, too, if he recovers from his injury in time. Did I mention that Bob Bradely sucks as a coach?

  9. If we really want a creative offense team it needs to be the following:

    I would like to see Torres in there because he has creativity to play with Feildhaber but Bradley wont play him so we dont know what hes got.

  10. Sorry, but Ching is pure MLS, and he’s no match for any WC defender. Ching is ALWAYS the slowest and least skilled player on either team in ANY international match. Including CONCACAF, much less WC2010.
    And we need some speed on offense, so I’d make Robbie Rogers prove he does not deserve to start. Make right mid his position to lose. At least he runs at defenders. But who do you put up top? For the past year Dempsey has looked much better at forward than midfield for the USMNT.
    Maybe we need to pair Donovan and Dempsey up top. We are really going to miss Charlie Davies! Poor guy, should have stuck to the team curfew…

  11. Why do I keep coming here after stupid posts like the Henry one and the TV ratings ones by Kartik? You really piss me off buddy sometimes………

    But I come here for posts like this. Solid tactical analysis and player breakdowns. I don’t know didly squat about Slovakia, but I do know Denmark is much better than us and would have killed us in an A match or a B match.

    What UEFA qualified teams, Kartik do you think we would be favored against?

  12. wow…the loonies are out.

    Generally agree with K’s comments and I never thought of the link between Bradley and AC Milan.

    Jozy’s career is starting to stall on both the club and national levels. He may be getting lazy, but his play against Costa Rica was not lazy. There is something wrong, however, and putting Ching in isn’t going to be of an improvement. Jozy’s goal and assist totals from qualifying–while not the complete argument against Ching–tend to make me think we are better with Jozy than Ching, especially if Bob wants two forwards with different qualities.

    Bornstein may make the right runs at the right time–but he is also lax on defense. His inconsistency, like the inconsistency of Clark, Bradley, and a host of other US players, really hurts us, and the left back position is still wide open. Boca, when everyone gets healthy (another issue), is probably the best option out there.

    How do you get a team to play more consistent? That is a problem Bradley needs to solve and has thus far failed to answer.

  13. We might be pretty competitive if we could just get rid of Bob Bradley, and bring in a quality coach. Like someone who has played professionally, maybe, or for a national team? Bradley has done neither, and he’s dragging the USMNT down with his MLS mentality.

    We’re quickly running out of time to dump Bradley. Bradley is like some weak youth soccer coach, who thinks, “If I only had the best players, then I could do well.” Well, Bob, you have what you have, and you need to make the most of what you have. And you most definitely have not done so!!!

  14. Look, I’m no Bradley fan, but what some fans expect out of him is outrageous. WE ARE NOT THAT GOOD! Switching players around does no good if the team isn’t that talented. We don’t make the right attacking runs, our first touch as a team is bad, our defenders can’t pass, our attack lacks a threat from distance ( don’t say Clark, I mean a CONSISTENT shot), and so on. We are a few players away from being a good side, and one injury away from being a bad one. Stay healthy Landon!

    We need a good draw to get out of the groups AGAIN, because the rate of international level players being produced by the USSF has stagnated. The only thing we can truly control about our players is their mental development, and the teams we play against are always thinking one or two steps ahead of us. It isn’t Bradley’s fault the USSF runs such an overrated self promotion shop, and I feel bad that people can’t have any perspective on where we stand. Go USA! Boo USSF and youth soccer! Get it together and teach our future generations of nats to do something besides run around on defense and boot the ball up the field!

  15. These games were instructive.


    Brad Guzan impressed. Stuart Holden showed well. Jonathan Bornstein showed for the n’th time why should not be on the field. Donovan’s absence was enormous.

    The big take aways:

    1. Michael Bradley is neither a very good defensive player, nor a technical player, nor anything more than a very mediocre passer.

    2. We need Jermaine Jones to shield the back four.

    3. Jose Francisco Torres has qualities we are desperately missing and deserves to play.

    4. A realistic midfield would consist of Jones in a central defensive role, Bradley in front of him, Torres set up as a pinched in left midfielder, and Donovan wide right.

    5. A sensible federation would do *everything* in its power to secure the services of a Hiddink or Trappatoni.

    6. I don’t like to descend to the ad hominem. But Bob Bradley embodies the paradox of the focused and smart idiot. You bring Castillo across the ocean to play him for 30 minutes as a left midfielder in front of Bornstein? In a match that is completely out of hand? This is just the latest in a long series of inspired decisions — stretching back to the experiment with Sasha Kljestan, the adventures with Beasley, and Ching’s selection against Mexico. Bradley’s big failure, in my view, not geting Jose Francisco Torres integrated in side. Bradley should have been gone ages ago.

  16. I think a realistic goal for this world cup would be to not finish last in the group.

    after seeing the strength of the field and the pot that the US is in, it’ll be unlikely that we win a game let alone get to the knock out stage.

    i really thought this might be the year we break throught but after recent events and looking at the projected squad for the world cup. We’ll be lucky to get a point…..

  17. Trappatoni is now available. He won’t allow players to wear headphones while he addresses them. He’ll enforce curfews. He’ll convert the chummy group into a competitive team. He’ll know which formation and personnel to employ. He’ll know when to make substitutions. He won’t be sentimental with call-ups.

    A team like the US needs a better coach. It’s good enough to benefit from strong coaching but not good enough to put up with bad coaching.

    Between the horrendous losses and the Davies thing, the year has demonstrated Bradley’s limitations. Fire him and hire Trap. What’s the big deal?

    1. Trap, who I consider the best coach in the world over the past 25 years is still under contract with the FAI until the Euros in 2012. But at his age, with this week’s heartbreak, maybe just maybe he’ll want a change in scenery? Well, we can always hope, can’t we?

        1. What about Phil Brown? I heard he might be available soon… we would have to kick Jozy off the team though.

          UN:F [1.6.7_924]

          I don’t consider Jozy a lock for a spot. Even Bradley might drop him.

  18. No big surprise. U.S. is not deep. Between injuries and players not available, we were missing 4 of our top five players. I wasn’t expecting much. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much from these opportunities. The only new thing we learned was that Cunningham may still deserve a look. Holden was solid, Guzan is still number 2, Bornstien, Frankie and EJ SUUUUUUCK, Spector’s not a CB and this team doesn’t make the WC without Donovan. I think we already knew all these things. I would have loved to see more Torres and Marshall, but it wasn’t to be.

    The U.S. team is a good team. Our A team has the ability to beat almost anyone in the world, but we can also struggle against most solid teams. Our B/C team can probably compete with Grenada and the minnows, but will struggle with anyone average to good. I believe our depth is better than it was 12 years ago, but it will still be a while before we have 2 world cup class teams.

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